Blake Farenthold still thinks he can represent the Crossroads.
Although he resigned a month ago as U.S. Representative for District 27 amid sexual harassment complaints, Farenthold started Monday as the legislative liaison for the Port of Port Lavaca- Point Comfort.
He will earn $160,000 a year from the port, which taxes Calhoun County residents to operate and sees 4.9 million tons of product shipped through it annually.
“They’ve got some issues with the federal government that they need to get resolved with respect to design deficiency. There’s a variety of issues; I’ll just leave it at that,” Farenthold said Monday.
He said the way in which he left Congress shouldn’t prevent him from tackling those issues for the port.
“I’ve got a good relationship with my former colleagues,” he said.
Then, he described himself as a “transportation geek.”
“This is an opportunity that aligned with something that interested me. My family always said take a job doing something you like, then it’s not like going to work every day. It’s like going to do something fun,” Farenthold said.
Farenthold has endured withering criticism since it came to light in December that he used $84,000 of taxpayer money to settle a sexual harassment complaint brought against him by his former communications director, Lauren Greene.
Then, after more staffers came forward with complaints, he announced he wouldn’t run for re-election.
April 6, he abruptly resigned, prompting Gov. Greg Abbott to call a costly special election that will likely go to a runoff because it drew nine candidates. Abbott has called for Farenthold to pay for the cost of the special election. Abbott’s his office could not be reached for comment Monday.
Elected officials in Calhoun County didn’t criticize the hiring of Farenthold even though he has ignored calls to repay the $84,000 and said he would not pay for the special election.
Most of the board of the Port of Port Lavaca- Point Comfort couldn’t be reached, and those who could – Dell Weathersby and Aron Luna – said they could not discuss personnel matters and referred questions to Port Executive Director Charles Hausmann.
Hausmann said Farenthold was taking a newly created position, but he did not answer whether the board had advertised this position or considered other applicants.
Russell Cain, Calhoun County Republican chairman, said he had no objection to the hiring.
“The port dealt with him (Farenthold), and he’s been in Washington all these years, and if they want to use him, they know what they’re doing,” Cain said.
Evelyn Burleson, former Calhoun County Democratic Party chairwoman, said she was surprised by the hiring because she had met with Hausmann last week to discuss the port and he hadn’t mentioned it. But she, too, had the same sentiment, especially because she wants to see the Matagorda Ship Channel dredged to 47 feet.
The port plans to hold a meeting about the dredging Tuesday at the Bauer Exhibit Building with the Army Corps of Engineers.
“I hope that Mr. Farenthold does a good job and we do get that done. I know that I have complete confidence in the board there,” Burleson said of the port.
Neither Bech Bruun nor Michael Cloud, the Republican congressional candidates, had any objections to the board’s decision to hire Farenthold.
Emily Martin, the general counsel for the National Women’s Law Center, said the port should take steps to ensure the safety of the women Farenthold works with or be on the hook for his harassing behavior.
“Hopefully, that very real threat of liability will lead the Port of Port Lavaca-Point Comfort to make sure that he does not have the opportunity to harass others, which means that those who came forward with complaints about his past behavior will have had a real impact and protected others by sharing their story,” she said.
Eric Holguin, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Rep. of District 27, said he hoped Farenthold would repay taxpayers.
“The fact that he is now going to earn a living off of the people that he failed time and time again continues to show the culture of corruption that he and Republican leaders live in,” he said.
Holguin’s opponent in the Democratic Party runoff, Raul “Roy” Barrera, added that he prays for Greene and her family.
“As far as him getting a job out there in Point Comfort, he should be glad he’s getting a second chance. Hopefully, he won’t make another mistake,” Barrera said.